Thursday, January 31, 2008

So far, so good . . .but

Car's been running fine but I haven't been driving it much. There was one strange problem and I don't know what it is. I've mostly been doing short local drives so I haven't been switching over on these drives around town. The other day I drove about 9 miles on surface streets and decided not to switch over because it was cool out and the car would sit for a few hours when I got there so I would just have to purge it when I got there.

Cut to a couple- three hours later. I go to start the car and it won't start. Now remember I'm on diesel, this shouldn't be happening and any problem I have ever had has been while on Veggie. It's just cranking with no sign or sound of wanting to start. I crank it for a few seconds with no luck. This is the classic sign of an air leak - but the car has been running fine with no problems until then, totally out of the blue. I have plenty of diesel in the mini tank and by default the system stays on diesel. That is to say that if the system isn't powered or fails the car will be on diesel.

So I start thinking about calling AAA and look under the hood to see if anything is obvious - nothing. I try again and it shows signs of starting and after another crank it starts. I drive home fine. Once home I wait a couple hours and restart the engine. Other then a slight hesitation it starts fine and has ever since. Obviously the worst of it is not knowing if the car will do it again. I know I could be grasping here but - bad gas perhaps? My last fill up was not at my regular station. Change the diesel filter? It's been 20 months on the same one.

I've also been waiting longer before switching over. I find that the longer I wait before switch over the faster the oil gets hot. Even with all of the mods I've done the oil still takes 10-15 minutes to get up to temp after the switchover. It kinda makes sense because one can't expect with the quantity of oil we are dealing with that simply waiting until the engine water temp hits 190º that the oil is even close to 160º. The colder it is outside the longer it will take to heat the oil. If I wait an additional 10 minutes after the car his operating temp (190º on my TDI) before throwing the switch it will generally make 160 pretty quick. Whether it is on the freeway or surface streets tends to affect the time also. With the cold weather and short trips you can see way I haven't been switching over lately.

I decided to empty the diesel tank to see if there was any contamination of the fuel with oil. The diesel looked clear without the yellow cast that I used to get when the oil purged into the tank.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Not making temperature

As I usually do after any of my modifications, I take the car on a test ride. The bigger the mod the bigger then drive. A friend of mine lives in Lancaster, CA about 50 miles north and slightly east of Burbank. After my last major mod - rerunning the fuel lines - I thought I should take it for a long one.

One important difference is that it is colder there. It's been cool here but colder there.

I headed out around 1pm and it was probably in the 50's where I left. I came home in the evening about 7pm & I would guess it was in low 40's maybe high 30's when I. Now going up the car barely maintained 165º. I generally turn off the electric portion of the oil system when the temp shows around 180, figuring that the system can now maintain itself at a high temperature. And that usually happens, except every so often and it usually happens on the freeway when it's cold, the system will drop temperature. And the turning the electric portion back on doesn't help it just stays where it was

Yesterday was the coldest freeway drive the car has experienced with the conversion. On the way home where it started in the low 40's (again it may have been colder) the car never made it to temperature! It maxed out at 150º and it took it a while to get there. I ended up switch back to diesel and driving home.

Currently I can only think of 2 things that may be the culprit:

1. The electric switch I was using (I replaced it today) was burning up because it was underrated for the amperage draw of the injection line heaters and Vegtherm. This could have led to the Vegtherm & line heaters not receiving the proper about of power to sufficiently heat the oil.*

2. I'm extracting so much coolant heat out of the system that the engine can not produce enough of it. So the oil is actually cooling the coolant with it's thermal requirements. Remember I have the Vormax in the trunk, so by the time the oil returns to the engine it could be cooler than it other wise might be. But then again this must be similar to an in tank heater, which I don't have

I have to post something on the message boards. Any comments?

* Thanks to the boards I realize that I could of / should of used a second relay for the electrical heating part of the system. This would reduce the need to use heavy gauge wire and let me use a lower amperage switch by not passing all the power through the switch and burning it up in the process - live and learn - maybe next time

2007 Journal Archieve

2002 Jetta TDI Sedan

Purchased on ebay w/126k for the conversion

Flipped the switch on June 14th 2006 @ 126,800 miles

December 31th 2007 (135,800)
I guess I should be more specific. My glowplug light is flashing, not "on". This is an indicator of an issue with the brake lights or brake light switch. And guess what, there is a recall on the brakelight switch. I have an appointment scheduled for Friday AM at the dealer. Live & learn

read more

December 30th 2007 (135,800)
I found this glowplug FAQ at and decided to figure out what is wrong with the glowplugs. As best I can tell they are working. Everything checks so it must be the harness. The harness has previously been replaced because the wires have been cut and taped up. I'm going to add some electrical cleaner and try and find someone with a Vag-Com and clear the codes. Otherwise it will be a new harness.

December 28th 2007 (135,800)
Please see , notes on the 3rd video

November 18th 2007 (135,350)
I've noticed a substantial reduction in the time it takes the oil to get hot once I switch over. This is due I feel to the new Frybrid HE/Filter I recently installed along with the FPHE that was installed earlier.

It's debatable how much of a difference the line heaters make in the initial heating of the oil during and the first part of switch over. They certainly don't hurt.

Remember that I am taking my oil temp reading on the return (looped) line, so I am taking a fairly conservative temperature.

My feeling is that I should install (or again if I was to do it again I would run some) sort of heated fuel line on the journey from the VO tank to the engine bay. Currently there are only portions of the VO line that come in contact with the heated coolant lines. If the lines were heated on the way to the engine bay it would at least act as a preheater to the heaters in the engine bay.

The issue is that the oil currently doesn't spend much time in contact with the heated surfaces. It passes through the heaters but if the fuel lines were heated it would at least preheat the oil before it reaches the heaters in the engine bay there by allowing more heat to be absorbed by the oil on it's journey. I have noticed that the oil will get hotter sooner on surface street driving as opposed to freeway driving. This is because since I am using less oil it stays in contact with the heaters longer before injection

Sept. 29th 2007 (134,439)
Sorry about the lack of updating but I've basically just been driving. I added the Frybrid Heated filter. I had a strange situation where the coolant loop did not heat up after I added the Frybrid filter. After I had some time to think about it (I took the car out for a couple test drives after trying different things - to no avail) and a helpful response to my post on the forum I was able to fix the problem. It was a trapped air pocket. Anyhow the one day project turned into 3 days. I still have to do my final test dives on the veggie part of the system since I was unable to switch over since there was no heated loop.

I also discovered that my injection line heaters weren't coming on. The jumper I made to go from one side to the other is loose and the wire needs to be kept in a particular position for it to work. The Vegtherm is still working so I'm not too worried about it.

I need to run the car for a week or so to make sure nothing is leaking. After that I will insulate the lines and fix the injection line heater. For now I just need to check the line heater once a week or so

Sept 25th 2007 (134,381)
Oil changed, Mobil 1 5-40

August 4th 2007 (133,532)
Just some notes about this overhaul, most of which I have probably mentioned before. The car initially had a stock Plantdrive TDI kit installed . Getting a better understanding of things, or at least my opinions about them led me to change and add some things.

What I don't like:
  • My car has no hose over hose(HOH) or hose in hose(HIH) on the fuel lines. Nor do I have a heated fuel tank. If I were to do it again would added the heated fuel lines. But I am in a realatively mild climate and it was a son of a gun to run those aluminum lines under the car . Most of my oil run under the car is uninsulated aluminum tubing - this I would not do again
  • The Vormax (FPHE) is in the trunk. This to me does not seem like a good idea as there is heat loss on the way up to the engine bay & a section of oil is unheated before the Vegtherm for the initial switchover.
  • The 2 micron Racor filter attached to the back of the Vormax is unheated. Again if I was to do things again I would use something else, perhaps a Frybrid TDI filter or the new Vegmax thast Plandrive sells. I would not go through the hassle of wrapping the Racor. I only did it because I had some leftover tubing around.
It's been about a month now and car is running good. As for the air leak, I found a line with a slit in it near one of the hose clamps.

I have noticed a quick change in temperature when I do the initial switch over but after that the change is not as great as I had hoped. In other word when I switch over the oil will go to 100º rather quickly but after that it take time more time then I would like for it to reach 160º.
I'm thinking that the heater coil around the Racor is more of a passive heater. The quanity of oil it is heating is more then is needed and it can not heat that amount of oil quickly.

To fix this I bought the Frybrid Heated filter. I have yet to receive it but I will replace the racor filter and homemade heater coil with this. My thinking is that the new heater will be using the same amount of heat to heat a smaller quanity of oil because it passes through the heater exchange on it's way to the IP. Imagaine heating a cup of oil vs. heating oil as it passes through a staw. Less oil = more to it

I still have to insulate the lines and do a little replumbing. I will install the Frybrid heater at that time. Perhaps by the end of the month

July 11th 2007 (133,148)
Car has been running fine until today. I had an air leak somewhere in the veggie portion of the system after the intial overhaul. At that time I went back and found one missing hose clamp on a diesel line and double checked all clamps. That seemed to fix it.

The problem that has remerged, is when I am on Veggie and will be making a quick pit stop. I do not purge since the engine is hot and will be off for 15-20 minutes. Depending on how bad the air leak is the car will either start after a couple extra turns or won't start. Right know it starts with an extended starting crank. I think the problem is on the veggie portion as I don't have this issue on the diesel side. I did notice a ton of air in the sight glass while purging and they evetually disappear if a purge while on diesel.

When the car was running fine on veggie before there was no air in the sight glass while purging the one time I looked at itAs amatter of fact I didn't even think it was moving.

The only change in the system since the air leak started again was that I added a hose clamp as a support for the coolant jacket around the 2micron racor, attaching it to a veggie hose to help support the jacket around the racor. The only thing I can think is that perhaps it pulls the veggie hose a certain way introducing air at the nearest connector - stupid perhaps but I don't know what happen

Right now the car drives fine I just have to be aware of leaving it on oil when not running. The easiest fix is to simply switch back to diesel when I turn off the car and switch back to oil when I restart it after these short.

At least that is the plan. Once I get a better idea of what is going on I can better trouble shoot it

July 6th 2007 (133,081)
Major overhaul of the system is complete. Basically the following was done:
  • Replaced the 6 port Pollak with 2 - 3 port Hydraforce valves
  • Moved the 2 micron Racor filter that was in the trunk to the engine compartment and wrapped it in coolant jacket
  • Added a FPHE to the engine compartment, keeping the Vormax in the trunk
  • Added an additional 3 port valve to allow the purged oil to retun to the oil tank during purging, thereby not contaminating the small diesel tank
I'm hoping to get an updated video up and more pictures.

June 1st 2007 (132,831)
Picked up the car yesterday from the local European car mechanic. Evidently the engine cooalnt temp sensor had failed. However according to the mecahnic the on board computer was filled with gibbersih. He asked me if I had hooked up the car to a computer or nythimg, I hadn't. He was wondering about all the "BS" codes the computer was giving him. He did say the sensor had failed some time ago and that it wsn't unusual for the computer to generate gibberish when this sensor fails. He also asked how the car was running because evidentley the ETS regulates the fuel moxture based on the temp is senses.

He said the particular version of the ETS I have was prone to failure and they automatically replace them when they get them in. So he cleared the code and gibbersish and test drove the car. He retested it and another code showed up soemwhere else (I don't remember where it was) but he said because there is so much stuff for them to go through in the menus and such that he caould have mised resetting that one. he drove it again and no problems.

I picked up the car and dove the 3 miles home with no problem. I don't drive this much this time of year so the car will not see much use - or switching over. He did say that if the EML comes on again to bring it in right away so he could check it out.

$175 later, so far so good. . . .I need to recheck the oil level . . ..BTW I never mentioned that the car ran on veggie oil, the only thing asked me about was how long did it take me to do the mod.

May 27th 2007 (132,xxx)
Still waiting to find the time to do the uprades to the VO system. I've been distracted with my other vehicle
and I have a ton of things to do around the house.

The Engine Malfunction Light came on last week. I looked in the owners manual and it mostly relates to emissions. On my old '99 Passat a hose was loose and that caused the EML to come on.

I haven't been driving the car too much and I plan on taking it in next week. I found a European mechanic shop that will charge $75 to hook it up to the VagCom vs the $115 the dealer wants. I have to look in the service manual to get more details but as long as it is not flashing it is OK to drive the car until one can get it to the shop. It takes a minute or 2 for it to come on.

The other thing I'm more concerned about was that I was about a 1/2 quart low on my oil. I checked the oil when the light came on thinking that it was causing the light but it has since sayed on. I need to keep an eye on this

April 6th 2007
Car is running fine. Again not much driving going on here. Just getting ready for the Local Earth Day events. My car and I will be at 2 events - Emerson Elementary's Whole Earth Art Fair on Friday April 20th and Saturday April 21st at the City of Burbank Recycling Center event at the Stough Nature Center.

I've decided to keep the Vormax in the trunk, however I do feel the system needs to be supplemented with additional heat. My solution was to heat the Racor 2 micron filter that is attached to the Vormax bracket with a coolant jacket. I have some extra aluminum tubing from the initial install and I had planned on moving it to the engine compartment and wrapping it with aluminum tubing.

Plantdrive recently introduced VegMax heated 3 micron filter. I think you can also get it with a 5 micron filter. I believe this will eventually replace the Vormax (personally I think you need a variation of both). Rather the me make the coolant jacket I will buy the VegMax.

So the next work on the car will be:
  • Install Vegmax in engine compartment
  • Install return fuel line for oil to returned to veggie tank when purging. This includes an additional switch to be installed in the dash
  • upgrade switch for injection line heaters & Vegtherm to higher capacity - the current one is 30 amps and it gets fairly hot.
The first 2 require a fair amount of plumbing to be done and the last requires the dash to be disassembled again (actually I've done it so many times now I can do that pretty quick) at my pace will require at least 2 days. I should have time to do all this early next month.

In the mean time I have been distracted with my other project

March 12th
I added the injection line heaters this weekend.

The other day, by accident, I started the car on Vegetable oil after parking for 10hrs or so at work. Started fine - I didn't even know it was on Veggie until I went to switch over and it already was running on oil. Unfortunately the Vegtherm didn't get turned on until then. Seems I forgot to purge, turning off the Vegtherm power as opposed to switching back to diesel. I've done this once before but wasn't 100% sure I had done it because the car started right up as if on diesel. Temp was probably in the 50's.

While driving I generally keep an eye on the temp of the oil. Once it hits about 180º I tend to switch off the Vegthem, letting the Vormax do the heating at that point. What I did this time was absentmindedly turn off the Vegtherm and not purge. This just reiterates the drawback of veggie driving - tasks (or in my case, multiple) need to be run. I don't mind doing the procedures as I would think most car nuts wouldn't mind but I can see how a non car person would not want to do this. Some kits will limit the operation to a simple purge process. I keep modifying my setup and this ads to the complications.

Checked the oil level and no drop so hopefully that implies I'm not burning any oil - polymerization. Since I don't drive too much I'm planning on changing oil every 6 months or 4000 miles, this should reduce the chances of polymerization.

Also decided to buy a deep cycle/marine battery to pump the filtered oil. When I bought the Northern Tool 12v fuel pump I thought I would simply use the 12v accessory plug in the trunk. First I had to remove the alligator clips from the pump that are used to power it from battery terminals and replace them with a cigarette power plug. Problem is it draws so much power that it melted the plug I installed.

To make a long story short, I tried it a couple times powering it via the power plug in the trunk and it was a pain - I had to jiggle it to make it work, it would get hot, etc. I also realized that after my last batch of filtered oil that it is best to put the oil in jugs if it is heated and let it settle in case there is any hydrogenated stuff in it so that it would settle out, rather then pumping into the car as I had done before.

I bought the cheapest marine battery Pep Boys had and the least expensive (capacity wise) microprocessor controlled charger I could. The battery was $60 plus $10 core charge & the charger was $50. Total was about $130 w/tax. I've been told this should last about 10 years.
Since I don't have or want to run 11ov out there it is worth it

March 2nd(131,625)
It's cold here again so I'm not switching on my short drives to work. I was hoping that I was over the cold stuff . I did a 25 mile drive in 44-50º weather the other morning and in the 30 minutes I drove it the oil only made it to 150º.

This was primarily all highway driving so I 'm thinking that the Vegtherm can not handle the volume of oil at high rpms and lower temps. Remember the Vormax is in the trunk so it takes a while to heat that quanity of oil in the system and for the Vormax's effect to "kick in". Perhaps a Vegtherm Mega would increase the temperature of the oil more and faster.

I've since discovered that the late model TDI's have a 90 or 120 amp altenator. Mine has a 90 so I think it could handle the vegtherm Mega. However I'm leaning more towards the injection line heaters. The good thing is they heat the oil at the very last entry point to the cylinder head, so there would be very little heat loss and it's past the IP so no heat is lost to it and very little returns to the IP if it is very hot oil . The only thing that bothers me is I don't know how it will be reflected in my temperature readings since most of the oil is burned (I assume) after going through the heaters.

February 22nd(131,425)
I'm still not sure whether the sludge at the bottom of the Vormax is animal fat or hydragenated sludge. When I processed the oil I filled the tank of the car and 4 cubees. I recently gave 2 cubees to a friend and noticed that approx. 20% of one cubee had the creamy stuff on the bottom other had a small amount on the bottom.

The oil was warm/hot when I processed it into the container and car 2 months earlier -I 've only gone thru 1/2 a tank of veggie in 2 months! We then had a fairly severe (by SoCal standards) cold spell where the oil in the Vormax - and I assume the oil in the cubee - settled out (see below). If it is hydragenated stuff at the the bottom it would explain why it didn't settle out during the heating/dewatering process. I may have poured the oil into the prefilter setup and imediately started to heat it for dewatering and filtering. This would have kept it liquid and explain why it settled out at colder tempatures as I have feeling some hydrogenated oils have snuck into my fule system

Initially the stuff in the Vormax looks more granular or pastey then the stuff that was at the bottom of the one cubee. I separated a little sample from the bottom of the final filtering tank and it looks very similar to the settled stuff in the Vormax. I didn't look too much at the stuff in the cubee but it was certainly whiter & whispier then the stuff in the Vormax. I have one more cubee from this batch that I have not looked at to see if there is any creamy stuff on the bottom of it (because it is in the cardboard box it came in).

Perhaps when I change the filter on the Vormax I can scrape the congealed stuff off the bottom of the clear bottom. Until then There's not much to do about. The real test will be to see how the car acts when the veggie gets low in the stock fuel tank - if it clogs it.

I'm getting close to processing another batch and rather then put any in the car imediately I'm going to place it into multiple cubee containers. I think I have about 8 empties available. This way I can let them settle out if there are any problems.

I was hoping to let the tank get low on veggie so I could calculate my MPG but that will have to wait till summer. According to Consumer Reports Veggie has less BTU per gallon than diesel, hence lower MPG.

Winter driving
With my current system and the short drives that I primarily do I have decided not to switch over on the colder days. Since I only drive about 20-25 minutes a day for my commute (8 miles) and it can take 10 minutes or more for the engine to reach operating temp (depending on outside temp) it isn't worth switch to veggie as I would have to purge after a short time. Plus it contaminates the diesel tank with oil with little return.

The bottom line is that perhaps for a month or 2 out of the year I may not drive on Veggie.

January 21st(130,928)
I started a thread about some sediment at the bottom of my Vormax. I'm incline to think it's animal fat. I'm hoping to heat the Lexan bowl in the near future as a test. Hopefully it will dissolve and on a long drive it will get hot enough and reliquify. My concern is what my tank looks like

I also did a quick engine temp test recently because I'm concerned about actual temp of the engine at switch over. It was in the 50's and I took the engine to temp (190º F). I waited an additional minute and the took some temp readings. I'm hoping to post this info soon but in the meantime I feel good about the inital readings being over 200º at the engine head.

Friday, January 04, 2008

C.A.R.B. states and stealerships

As I mentioned previously my glow plug indicator started flashing. Thanks to the helpful info over at I ended up finding out that the flashing glow plug indicator means something is wrong with your brake lights and/or switch. Why this is the indicator I don't know.

Not realizing that there was a difference between a flashing GP indicator and one that is on all the time, I checked the GP's and they tested good. Somehow in one of my searches I found out that flashing is related to the brakes and that there was a recall - which I did get a notice for but forgot to deal with it - for the brake switch on my 2002 jetta. I did a quick check of my lights and sure enough they were out except for the center one (thank god).

So I went to my local dealership New Century VW in Glendale CA. When dropping off the car the rep said that the bulbs were most likely burned out because the middle light still worked. Because of the Vormax in the trunk I told them not to replace the right brake light as I didin't want to inccur additional labor charges.

I get a call a few hours later to say they replaced the brake switch and one bulb but the GP indicator is still flashing and that it would be $115 to investigate. I assume that meant hook the car up to a Vag-Com and read the codes. Now I felt pretty sure that the brake switch was the issue based on my research and when I dropped the car off the rep told me they would clear the codes if needed.

When I picked it up, I again asked if they hooked it up to clear the code and he said they did but something else was wrong. At that point I figured I would replace the bulb behind the Vormax and if that didn't fix it I would take to my local euro-car mechanic and have him read the codes for $75 and if they only needed to be cleared I would bill VW for it - there is a reimbursement form with the recall notice.

So I get in the car to leave the dealer an no light. It's working fine. It simply needed to go through a couple cycles to clear the computer. The same thing happen to me when I was checking the GP because I had to disconnect the engine coolant temp sender to engage the GP's and the MIL came on for a few engine cycles then turned it self off

The point here, and it's brought up again and again on the net is that most dealerships don't know much about these TDI's, especially if you live in a CARB state (New York, California, Maine, plus 2 more). You can not buy a new diesel in a CARB state so the dealers don't know the cars . But they are happy to charge me $115 while they try and figure out what they are doing. You need to find a good diesel mechanic in your area or find a dealership experienced with TDI's. has a list of recommended diesel mechanics. Stay clear of the dealerships if you can.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Notes on 3rd Video

December 28th 2007 (135,800)
Its been cold here (for us anyway - down to the 30's at night) so I haven't been switching over on the short drives to work. I've come to the realization that for the protection of the engine one can not switch over on short trips - especially when it is cold out. I knew this but there is always the instinct to switch over ASAP and be driving for free or helping the enviorment. Perhaps part of my issue is that I have the small diesel tank and I have to be aware of how much of the diesel I use before refilling the small tank so I tend to go to veggie for that reason. But remember I have a trunk!

I found this helpful thread about how to protect your engine on the Biodiesel & SVO Forum

About a week ago the glowplug indicator came on on my TDI. This has made me deal with the 3-port switch placement from the previous modification- that being the installation of the Frybrid HE/filter. The problem is the 3-port switches were mounted to the cowling so I needed to be around whenever anyone service the engine. This hasn't been an issue because the only thing I've done since the switches were moved to the cowling is have an oil changed.

Now that the car needs to go in for service I need to make the system "mechanic friendly" so it's out of the way and provides easy access to the bulk of the engine.

At the same time I decided to do something I have not been looking forward to and that was removing the aluminum lines I had run under the muffler heat shield from the engine bay to the Vormax in the trunk. The problem with this method is that there is no heat exchange between the lines so I'm getting no heat advantage along this run. In this situation cold oil is entering the first heater exchange and as opposed to it being partially heated before the HE and hence getting hotter earlier.

The whole point of these mods is to get the oil as hot as possible when it is first injected into the engine. Although I've seen a significant jump in temps since adding the FPHE it still takes 5-10 minutes for the oil to get to 160 after the switch in this winter weather. This is why I will now generally wait a few more minutes after the water gauge hits 190 to switch over. This extra time hopefully lets the IP get hotter because right now when the water temp reaches 190 the IP is still only warm. This implies to me that the IP is acting like a heatsink and absorbing heat from the heated oil as it passes through it. I can also see the temp raising on the oil near the oil temp sensor the long I wait before switching over - my oil sender is on the looped return line

The only thing left to add is a coolant shut off valve for the hot summer journeys to Las Vegas.

Here is the latest video concerning the above mentioned installation